From paper to flesh – Mishfit delves into tattoo design!

My final working sketch

I was recently commissioned to design a tattoo for a very dear friend of mine. I was honoured and nervous given the size and complexity of what she had in mind.. a full inner arm sleeve, referencing from “The wizard of oz”, “Alice in wonderland”, to name but a few concepts.

My challenge was to tie all this together in a beautiful composition that would flow gracefully up her arm, work with an existing tattoo and sit comfortably with my unique style and line work. No small feat given that I am more used to working on paper, canvas or brick walls than designing a piece to be inked into someone’s flesh, but the skin is just another canvas, right?… Just with a terrifying permanence, that really made me focus my pen and my mind…

I knew nothing about tattoo design and the do’s and don’ts, but having spoken to a few tattoo veterans, the general advice was to not worry about rules and let the creative juices flow, the tattooist will then interporate the design and make it work…

So, honoured with this creative challenge…I set about what seemed a logical creative process, broken down into stages. Firstly I designed all the individual elements and these went through a round of feedback from my friend. I then played with the over-all composition and how each element fit together, scale, line thickness and shading. Moving the elements around in photoshop was a really quick and efficient way of roughing out the composition. This went through another round of feedback and with a few more suggestions from my friend, we settled on a final composition that felt right.

This was obviously the stage, where I let go of my design and handed it over to the tattooist. It’s an interesting position to be in, once you relinquish creative control of your design, you have essentially been part of a collaboration with the client and the tattooist who will bring their own flavour to the tattoo. In that light, it has been one of the most interesting of collaborations I’ve ever worked on and something I would love to do again.

Understanding the symbolism in the tattoo and what it represents to my friend was fascinating, and I love the idea that you are defining your own vocabulary in your tattoo and creating your own story. It was a really enjoyable experience, and I’ve defiantly learnt more about my friend and the experiences she’s been through. It was a real pleasure to work together creatively on a piece of art that she will have with her forever.

Any feedback greatly received…

Transfer on and ready to roll!


Inking the outlines. Ouch!

Inking the outlines. Ouch!

First stage outlines complete

Secong stage of shading underway

Mishfit, stencil, furniture customisation, peacock art deco